Stieg Larsson, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”

December 6, 2008

So I bought this on Amazon, tacked it onto another purchase because they suggested I would like it.  Affinity marketing is getting better and better, right?  Besides, the cover is gorgeous—and it’s selling really well.  And the last best-selling mystery I bought at Amazon’s suggestion was the glorious In the Woods by Tana French.

First of all, it’s in hardcover.  Not a dealbreaker but an annoyance since I do much of my reading on the subway.  Fortunately I got through most of it on the plane from San Diego to New York.

Second, the translation’s bad.  I’ve made it through a few of Henning Mankell’s mysteries and I’m now hacking my way through  Per Petterson’s Out Stealing Horses and I wonder what it is about Scandinavian translators.  Is it that they all learn very correct but lifeless English?  And I suppose we  native English-speakers just don’t learn Swedish or Norwegian, assuming (perhaps correctly) that there’s not much of a living in translating Scandinavian fiction.

Except in this case.  It takes Larsson (a former journalist) close to 100 pages to set up his plot in all its complexity.  The protagonist is a financial journalist, the girl of the title is a waiflike computer hacker with Asperger’s.  This unlikely duo – can’t you just see the movie posters? – unmask a mass murderer and bring down a corrupt financial empire but it all seems to happen under water, somehow.  My favorite part was a few pages at the end when the waif performs some legerdemain involving bank accounts in Zurich: but then I realized I really prefer John LeCarré anyway.

About carolwallace

I spend most of my time writing and reading. Most recent publications: the reissue of "To Marry an English Lord,"one of the inspirations for "Downton Abbey," and the historical novel "Leaving Van Gogh." I am too cranky to belong to a book group but I love the book-blogging community.
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6 Responses to Stieg Larsson, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”

  1. The empress says:

    I was talking to someone, possibly Rosanna, whose perspective on
    Scandinavian languages was that the soul of the message is in omission,
    forbearance, intonation and timing. Now I remember, it is my Swedish neighbor Eva, so she should know
    Her comment sounded credible, and would explain the challenges of translation. Remember all those old sagas were spoken, right?

  2. carolwallace says:

    Very interesting. Forbearance — how does that play out in a message? Omission, yes. Timing — hmm. Maybe there’s a linguistic thing that gets lost in translation. Intonation, we know, does. But it explains so much.

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